Gossamer Tapestry

Reflections on conservation, butterflies, and ecology in the nation's heartland

Friday, February 08, 2008

Washington Meeting

Karen and a bunch of graphs

I did manage to make it to Washington Tuesday night. I've spent the last couple of days meeting with colleagues to discuss a bunch of data that we are working with. The data concern the monarch butterfly, and they have been gathered through a variety of programs that include people who are not formally trained as scientists. These citizen scientist programs are becoming very trendy. I believe that they have the potential to produce a large quantity of important environmental data. I was there in part because of my work with the Illinois Butterfly Monitoring Network. That's a program that I have run since the late 1980s, and we have a very large data set. Karen Oberhauser is a very well known and respected monarch biologist from the University of Minnesota. Leslie Ries is at the University of Maryland, the location of our meeting. She's the statistician of the group. She and I have been collaborating for several years now, and this is the first time that we got to meet in person.

Our goal was to collate data from a bunch of citizen science programs from around the country. It's a really varied bunch of programs. Some focus on the monarch exclusively, others monitor all species including the monarch. Some monitor adults, others eggs and larvae. Some are national programs. Others have a more regional focus. Would we be able see anything coherent from such a variety of data sets?

Leslie and Doug with an alarmingly large set of correlation analyses that need to be done

The good news is that the outcome was very encouraging. There were some interesting things that we were able to see in the data sets. It feels to me like we arrived at this meeting with a bunch of interesting data, and left with the beginnings of a story. Theres still a lot of statistical anaylsis to be done, but I'm very happy with the outcome so far.

Now, off to the Smithsonian/

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At 11:45, Anonymous Mark H said...

GREAT to hear that there IS massive data to sort through...Enough to significantly HELP the Monarchs is good news to me.

And NOW, just HOW are you going to get home (after listening to the weather forecasts for Chicago, it sounds like it's worse there NOW than when you left by a LOT!) GOOD LUCK....and I hope Leon got that new 2 feet of snow shoveled before you get home............

At 05:29, Blogger valown said...

I lucked out and had a great professor in my stats class in college. I was actually enthused about the class, imagine that. I'd love to hear more about this story in the future. I partake in 2 citizen scientist counts every year. Data from those are sent to Cornell University. I agree, there can be some good data collected by people who aren't considered "experts" or "scientists/biologists". Glad you are having a good time in the DC area.

At 07:16, Blogger Dave Coulter said...

As I like to say, "citizens can be science, too!"

(Kidding aside I have helped out with assorted bird counts, and it's good to see this sort of effort pays off)

Good job. Take the rest of the weekend off!

At 20:52, Blogger Ur-spo said...

i admire you doing stats
i found it unfathomable when i was in school.

At 07:11, Anonymous Jyoti said...

It's always inspirational to browse through your blog ... It's admirable what you are doing for proecting the enviornment ...


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